German artist Hanns Schimansky (b. 1949) produces highly aesthetic, abstract drawings which are widely appreciated both in his native land and abroad. Using pencil, Indian ink or chalk, he works on sheets of paper of hugely varying size, dashing off lines and organic forms free-hand, in a well-nigh impossible attempt to capture the intensity of the moment. Pushing the limits of the paper, his lines creep right up to the edges or folds and out into the corners. Each drawing represents a controlled interplay between the “now” and the energy released by the pressure of the hand on the paper. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is about to host Schimansky’s first ever one-man exhibition in any Dutch museum, comprising recent work from his Faltungen series, from 19 January through 12 May 2008.
Born in East Germany, Hanns Schimansky trained to work in agriculture and is a self-taught artist. It was while working as an agricultural engineer in a farming cooperative that he began drawing landscapes and portraits. These figurative beginnings laid the foundation for his entire oeuvre. His decision to work in pencil and Indian ink was motivated both by the shortage of painting materials in rural East Germany and by his lack of personal affinity with paint and canvas. In his desire to capture the passing moment, he is impatient of the relatively complex and time-consuming nature of painting.
Over the years he has developed a variety of creative procedures, one of the most remarkable being the method he uses to produce his Faltungen. He starts by covering both sides of a large sheet of paper with a smooth coat of paint. He then folds up the paper to form a small package. The next step is to unfold it again and make drawings, on both the front and the back, in the areas outlined by the folds. The demarcated areas serve as guidelines for the drawing process, dictating a particular rhythm. Finally, he folds up the paper in such a way as to create unexpected and exciting confrontations between the drawn areas.
Until around 2000, Schimansky’s work was entirely monochrome. Since then he has introduced mainly bright colours, which form a strong contrast with the sober black and grey that had prevailed in his work up to that point. The presence of warm red or cool blue areas changes the mood of the works and amplifies the graphic energy of the drawings.
Within his self-imposed technical limitations, Schimansky has discovered an aesthetic formal language which is highly accessible to the general public, even though it represents nothing concrete. Its wide appeal is proven by the many exhibitions and multitude of articles devoted to his work. Each exhibition creates a new interplay between the work and the surrounding architecture and light. In the projects gallery at the Gemeentemuseum, Berlage’s architecture binds the drawings together and gives them an extraordinarily powerful collective impact, despite the strongly graphic character they possess as individual pieces. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue containing a contribution by curator Franz Kaiser (publisher: Hatje Cantz).